Herby the Mailman’s jail watching

Herby the Mailman lived across the street from the old City / County jail on Pavonia back of the courthouse. (My memory is that somehow or other the place had a Central Ave. address?) He had a couple of funny stories about that lockup.

1) I happened to be walking by the jail one very cold evening in the ’80s. There was a spot where the building indented, forming a somewhat half-hearted alley. There stood a very unhappy guard. The next day, I asked Herby the Mailman if he might shine any light on this curious detail. I knew that police officers who’d been on the losing side in an election were sometimes sent to walk a beat in cemeteries, supposedly protecting those beyond injury from insult. I wondered if the outdoor guard duty might be some similar punishment patrol.

“Nah, nah. The wife had me on the leash last week, so after supper, I’d sit in the front room with the lights off listenin’ to the radio and just stare out the window. I thinks I’m seein’ things, but there’s this coffee can gettin’ lowered down on a string. Some time later, a guy comes by and sticks somethin’ in the can which then starts on a return trip back up to the window. This goes on for a coupla days. Just the other night, the can goes up and the siren goes off. Since then, they’ve had the poor guy out there all night freezin his balls off.

2) Next to the jail was a boiler building that provided the heat in the winter. Even during the summer months a “fireman” (boiler operator) was on duty every night. As might be expected, there was not much to do during the warm months, so the boiler operator made like a Rip Van Winkle.

One horrendously hot and humid night back when air conditioning was considered a luxury, the prisoners — unable to sleep — were hooting and hollering. This noise interrupted the slumber of the boiler operator.

“HEY! Stop it with all the racket! I’m tryin’ to sleep.”

“IF WE CAN’T SLEEP, YOU AIN’T GONNA SLEEP EITHER!”

“Oh yeah? Well, since I’m up, I got a little somethin’ for you!”

And so on this 90 degree night, the fireman started up the boiler, heating up the radiators in the jail.

“PLEASE! PLEASE! TURN IT OFF! WE’LL BE QUIET!”

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About Anthony Olszewski

Anthony Olszewski has written on a wide variety of topics: cage birds, tropical fish, popular culture, the poetry of Amiri Baraka and a chapter on genetics for a veterinary text book, as a small sample. He worked as an editor at a magazine produced by TFH, the world's largest publisher of pet books. Anthony Olszewski is the author of a booklet on Hudson County history, Hudson County Facts, and a book of short stories, Second Thief, Best Thief, that are sold on Amazon. Anthony Olszewski established PETCRAFT.com in 1996. A pioneer on the Web, the Site continues to provide unique information on a range of companion animals, focusing on birds and fish. As a community service, he operates Jersey City Free Books. Anthony Olszewski was born in Jersey City, NJ (Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, 1956) and is a member of Mensa.
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